Cortez human resources director Gay Hall said Cooley gave her notice on May 26, after working at the Welcome Center for more than two years. Hall said he hopes to hire a current employee to replace her.
In the meantime, assistant manager Sandra Crow will act as interim manager, according to a news release Thursday from city special events planner Jon Brooks.
Hall said it will likely take some time before a new manager can be found.
“We’ll see internally first,” Hall said. “Maybe somebody’s interested, maybe somebody’s not.”
If the city can’t find a current employee to take over, he said the city will advertise the position to the general public.
Cooley refused to comment on her reasons for resigning, but the news release said she “want(ed) to spend more time with her cats” and was ready to retire.
“Noel has been a great asset to our city in helping our visitors which are so critical to our local economy,” city manager Shane Hale said in the release.
Cooley’s departure leaves the future of a possible Welcome Center policy on local marijuana advertising, which she recently decided to write, uncertain. Although all Colorado Welcome Centers receive funding from the Colorado Tourism Office, the city of Cortez has taken over management of the local center for the past several years, and controls all hiring decisions. Cooley was the second Welcome Center manager to be hired on as a city employee, following her predecessor, Tiffany Alexander, in October 2014. Her last day in the position will be June 9.
In early May, Cooley banned the display of new brochures that contained ads for local marijuana dispensaries, claiming that the decision was handed down from the Colorado Tourism Office as part of a recent review of its policy on marijuana advertising.
The state tourism office, however, refuted her claims and indicated that the city of Cortez was breaking from state policy.
Kristin Graber, a public relations representative at the state tourism office, said that the office was reviewing its policy, and it has not directed Welcome Centers to stop displaying the ads during the review process.
“We will continue to distribute brochures with marijuana advertising while we await guidance from the state attorney’s office,” Graber said. “We were not aware that Cortez had decided not to distribute those.”
Cathy Ritter, director of the Colorado Tourism Office, and Taren Mulch, the state’s interim director of visitor services, have sent a request to Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s office asking for guidance on how to apply marijuana advertising regulations to the 10 official Welcome Centers scattered around the state.
The state office guidelines for brochure display also state that each Welcome Center manager was required to establish a written policy for distributing local tourism brochures.
When asked about her ban and the apparent conflict between local and state policy, Cooley said she planned to draft a policy for the Welcome Center on displaying advertisements for local marijuana dispensaries, with the help of city attorney Mike Green. Green could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
She did not complete that policy before announcing her resignation, according to Cortez special events coordinator Brooks, speaking on behalf of the city.
“We’re still waiting on the state to give us their policy on that,” Brooks said.
Brooks added that he expected to hear something from the Colorado Tourism Office by June. On Tuesday, the Colorado Tourism Office was still waiting for direction from Coffman, according to communications manager Graber.
Meanwhile, Cooley said on Wednesday that she had not directed employees to reject new brochures. The Montezuma Menu Guide, the only local brochure she rejected because of a marijuana ad, was still not on display. Cooley said she had no plans to stock it without state approval.